1. JANE GOODALL
Dame Jane Goodall, born Valerie Jane Morris-Goodall in 1934, is known for her studies on Chimpanzees and primates in modern times. Her fascination with animal behaviour began as a child when she observed birds and small animals and documented them. As a woman in a field that was dominated by men, she was often criticised and put down.
Goodall never referred to her Chimps as numbers, which was considered a formality at that time during research, but rather called them by names. Interestingly enough, it is her research that has broken boundaries and has brought information about apes that would, otherwise, be non-existent today.
2. ROSALIE EDGE
Born Rosalie Barrow Edge, Edge was a New York socialite. She was born into a family of wealth in 1877 and would later become one of the most effective environmentalists in the 20th century. Edge found her passion for conservation of birds after reading about the killing of 70,000 bald eagles in the Alaskan Territory—to which, there was no protest from the National Association of Audubon Societies, the leading bird conservation organisation at that time.
In 1929, she founded the Emergency Conservation Committee in order to bring to light the ineffectiveness of species preservation. She also founded the world’s first preserve for birds of prey: Hawk Mountain Sanctuary.
3. MOLLIE BEATTLE
Appointed by then-president, Bill Clinton, Mollie Beattie was the first woman to head the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Beattie oversaw the reintroduction of the grey wolf into the Yellowstone National Park. During her short time in service, she saw to the introduction of 15 national wildlife refuges and more than a hundred habitat conservation plans were signed.
Beattie was even seen rubbing cold water on the stomach of a wild wolf in order to cool it so that it could be moved to another site for release.
4. LAURIE MARKER
Dr Laurie Marker is the founder and executive director of the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF). She moved to Namibia in 1990 to develop a permanent Conservation Research Centre for wild cheetahs. After which, she developed the most successful breeding program for captive cheetahs in North America.
Her first visit to Namibia was in 1977 with a captive-born, hand-raised cheetah, and her goal was to find out if captive cheetahs could be reintroduced into the wild and if their hunting instincts had to be learnt or were instinctual. Her research was the first of its kind and has opened doors for captive cheetahs to be reintroduced into the wild safely today.
5. DIAN FOSSEY
Seeking animals for emotional support as a child, Dian Fossey quickly grew passionate about animals. She would later go to Congo to study the gorillas and identify three distinct groups. Unable to approach them at first, Fossey learnt that mimicking their behaviours – grunting sounds, submissive behaviour and eating the local celery plant – helped her gain their trust.
Fossey was very vocal about her opposition to poaching and financed patrols in Virunga to destroy traps set by poachers in the Karisoke study area. In four months, 987 poachers’ traps were destroyed. On 27 December 1985, Fossey was discovered brutally murdered in the bedroom of her cabin in Rwanda.
Her last diary entry read: “When you realise the value of all life, you dwell less on what is past and concentrate more on the preservation of the future.”